Monday, 30 March 2009

Our first UKA Show

We have at long last joined UKA after being told good things about it by several different friends.

Off we went on Saturday morning to Walton-on-Thames and the UKA Waverunners show. It was very windy and cold with April-type weather rather than March. One minute it was dry and the next it was raining in short sharp bursts. We were very lucky that we didn't actually do any of our runs in the rain. This was pretty amazing as we had five runs with each dog. I understand that normally each dog can enter four classes but this club put on an extra steeplechase class making the number up to five.

We went back again on Sunday and it was a much better day weather wise. Andy actually enjoyed himself whereas on Saturday he wasn't that keen. I was going to go back by myself on the Sunday but he decided to come along and I think he was glad he did. We also made sure to wear warmer clothes and take along our foot and hand warmers. To be honest we hadn't expected it to be so cold on the Saturday and hadn't really dressed appropriately. God, you'd think we'd have been prepared - how long have we been playing this game!

Anyway, back to the show. I absolutely loved it. It was so wonderful to go to a show and spend time with my dogs. I missed out at Mid Downs as I was judging but even that wouldn't have been as good; competing at indoor shows just doesn't compare with being outside, not to me anyway. The non-competing dogs didn't have such a good time Saturday as it was so cold we just kept them wrapped up in their coats and mainly in the car but on Sunday they all had a wonderful time. Andy took Becky and Murphy for a lovely walk and Murf found a football (his favourite thing in the world) and Becky found a little pink ball. They came back exhausted. Poppy had at least three outings and spent the whole lunch break irritating everyone with her little purple ball. Kizzy and Niamh were kept very busy needless to say.

On the Saturday Niamh actually had six runs as they re-started the senior agility due to a slippery dog walk. I had already decided not to put her over the dog walk as I'd seen a dog slip and fall twice. Instead I elected to do a training round and missed out the dog walk. The look on Niamh's face when she did a perfect A-Frame and was rewarded by her ball. She was a very happy girl. Shortly after the decision was made to re-start the class so we got another go. Niamh worked really well on Saturday but had one pole down in three of her classes. This is very unusual for her but I do believe she has speeded up and it took a while for her to get used to this herself. In her snooker class she was brilliant. We did all the hard stuff and then I made a handling error and got her E'd on the very jump that had we managed to take the right way would have given us a qualifying round. Stupid person. In her last run of the day (senior steeple chase) we finally got it right and came 2nd.

On Sunday we really got into our stride and had four qualifying rounds out of five. I let her down with bad handling in the one class we got wrong. Once again wrong end of tunnel was my undoing. I really need to think this through and start training it better. She was faster than I am used to which didn't help but I was still a plank. Her other rounds were great and we ended up with one clear steeplechase run; first place in senior agility; first place senior steeplechase and 2nd place in gamblers. Although I chose to compete in all my rounds (apart from the one I mentioned) I did try to get something extra from each run. I tried to improve my startline (with varying degrees of success!); I tested out different starting positions for myself in terms of Niamh focusing on her line rather than my position; I tried hard to put in front crosses where I would naturally choose to rear cross and other things like that. Overall I was a happy bunny and Niamh was a very tired little girl. I so love working her, she is just the best dog in the world - apart from Poppy of course!

My little Zeki had a great day on Sunday with lots of little training sessions around the rings. I took Bernadette's advice and had either a play session or a food session and didn't mix the two together. I was very happy that Zeki was doing tricks and tugging around the rings. We also did some corrective training when she lunged and screamed at dogs working in the ring and I think she is starting to understand that it really isn't acceptable to do this. I am sure it will always be a managed approach but I can live with that!

Kizzy had a pretty good weekend with lots of rosettes. She won a couple of steeple chase classes, came 2nd and 3rd in two others all with qualifying rounds. She was placed in lots of her performance classes but sadly not with qualifying rounds (i.e. she had faults). Andy has work to do in a couple of key areas: one is Kizzy's weaves; she seems to have regressed a little in this task but more worryingly she has learned to flick away from Andy in places he actually wants her to come towards him. We haven't quite figured how he has managed to train this but we need him to untrain it rapidly! That said I think sometimes we need to stop and take stock that their partnership is still a very young one. She has won a lot and sometimes that can be more of a hindrance to onward development (well IMO anyway!)

I had a very similar experience with Poppy. She was a very quick little dog in her day and we won up to the top level at a rapid rate. Then we ran into problems because our partnership hadn't cemented properly within the competition environment. It took a couple of seasons to really come together after winning into advanced level. That's what I like about my partnership with Niamh. We have developed quite slowly, certainly compared with my previous partnerships, but our confidence in each other has had time to mature and is very strong.

I'm not knocking in any way the dogs that get to the top early in their careers, just really musing that I rather like the slower route for myself. I am sure Andy and Kizzy will get it back together; they are very much a partnership in progress.

We had great company the whole weekend with Leah, Jay, Bernadette, Dennis, Dan, Karen and Becca. We had some good chats, good laughs and a lot of fun. I also got to meet Vicki and Simon for the first time after exchanging blog conversations! Nice to meet you!

I know a lot of people knock UKA (um, I think I might have been one of those people in another life) but it is a lovely atmosphere, a bit like agility was when I first started. It doesn't matter that the classes are small. You still have to perform with your dog and I still get huge satisfaction from doing my best round whatever the environment. I still love the KC shows (well most of them) but I think for pure enjoyment for me and my dog the UKA show rates as one of my best experiences!

Guess what ...... I loved it and I can't wait to go back to another one!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Not Zeki Training

Thought I'd do a quick post about something other than Zeki's training!

We're pretty busy with Andy's work. I guess we have to make the most of it and take on as much as possible while it's available. Andy is actually really busy at the moment so that has a knock on effect for me in the hours I have to put in. Very inconvenient but I suppose I really can't complain!

We recently managed to get hold of a decent leaf collector off eBay. I suggested to Andy that now would be a good time to look as most people have finished collecting leaves and there might be some bargains.

He found a good machine on eBay being sold by a guy who was running a little business out of his garage; basically he was buying up liquidated stock from small garden companies and selling on. Andy and Michael went off in Michael's van to collect it and came back with a Makita petrol strimmer, a Makita petrol hedge cutter plus the guy had thrown in a 26" cut 4-stroke lawn mower for nothing. He said it wasn't working well and we could have it in case we fancied fixing it. Well it turned out that all that was wrong was that someone had put 2-stroke petrol in the machine so once Michael drained it out and refuelled with unleaded it runs perfectly. Result. We decided we would go halves on all this equipment and just share it for both gardens. We're going to put some new fencing up soon and the idea is that we'll install a gate so that Michael can come across whenever he needs to use the various bits and pieces.

Of course Andy has already been playing with the new leaf collector. We (royal we) had done most of the leaf collecting by hand but there were still quite a few round the edge and under the hedges. Come the Autumn this machine will be a god-send as we get so many leaves it's unbelieveable (and hard work!)

The wonder machine!

We had a good night at training last night although I couldn't run Naughty Niamh as she has cut one of her front pads. It doesn't look much but she is acting as if her leg has been chopped off - typical panic pants Niamh. That said it is in a place where quite a bit of pressure is applied by the foot so I should be more understanding. Hopefully it will heal soon but in the meantime I'm probably going to get some skin glue and see if I can use that to speed things up and make it more comfortable for her.

I plan to do a little Niamh update soon in terms of her training and what we've been up to over the winter. It's all Zeki, Zeki at the moment but I have also been doing lots with my beautiful Niamh too. She continues to get better and better and I can't describe how much I love training with this gorgeous girl.

Today is a day off from all things doggie related. I'm off shortly up to Sarah's (our riding school landlady) and we're going up to London for lunch at One Aldwich followed by the theatre - we're going to see the new musical version of Oliver. I'm really looking forward to it and ought to go and get ready now!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A-Frame training for Zeki

After our positive weekend I decided to begin Zeki's A-Frame training. We started yesterday for the first time. As with most things I've done so far (with the exception of tunnels and jumps) I have decided to use food as the reward until Zeki has a good understanding of her job.

It's relatively easy to move to the A-Frame when you've done work on planks and wobble boards etc. The dogs seem to understand the requirement to interact with the obstacle in front of them. I put out her treat pot and sat her in front of the A-Frame and that was it really. She was up and away. Typical Zeki straight in at the deep end with no fear.

I know I backed out of teaching a running dog walk but I have decided (for the time being!) to try and teach a running A-Frame. There is no doubt that Zeki learned something from running her plank. We did quite a few repetitions of the A-Frame yesterday and only once did she really put in a leap for which I withheld reward. That said she didn't miss the contact but the method I'm trying to teach doesn't allow for leaping or long striding (see below.)

Today I wasn't going to train the A-Frame because I prefer for my dogs to have some time for new tasks to sink in before re-visiting them. However, I really wanted to get some video of her early attempts and Andy was available to do this today so we ended up doing a few repetitions but not many as we'd already had a little jump and weave training session earlier this morning.

It's interesting to see the video because some of the attempts I thought were really good were not quite as I thought and the one where you hear me correct her was really no worse than the very first attempt which I rewarded. So, I will have to watch more closely. The last attempt on the video is one of the best where you can see her put in an extra stride. Obviously the A-Frame is quite low at the moment and I plan to keep it at that height for a couple of weeks before raising it a little bit. Interestingly I can be ahead of her and she still runs nicely whereas I found with the dog walk if I stood ahead she nearly always took a leap at least on the first attempt.

My plan is to train it the same way as I did with the dog walk, i.e. not accepting jumping or long striding regardless of whether the contact is physically achieved or missed. The method is based on Sylvia Trkman's ideas which I find the most easy to understand and the least cluttered in terms of using props (which I'm not very good at fading.) That said I am not against using a stride regulator at a later stage if I think it might help. We'll have to wait and see how the success/failure ratio looks once the A-Frame reaches full height!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Zeki's first training day

Well we've had our 1-1 with Nic and also attended a training day with her at Sue's place. The 1-1 session was good fun and gave me some things to think about (overnight so's I could try to implement them the following day). The best thing about the lesson was that I managed the whole hour without using any food. Mostly we used a ball but finished with a tuggy type toy.

We worked on a little jump sequence and did some weaves. I chose not to work on contacts as Zeki is still learning those at home and I didn't want to do them without using food. If I start using food I find it difficult to switch to the toy so that was as a good a reason as any not to work on contacts.

Nic gave me some good tips regarding getting Zeki to work more for her toy (as did Bernadette after my lesson) and I took all the comments on board. It might seem like I don't at the time; like most people I come up with all the reasons why I shouldn't; couldn't; have tried; she does it at home-type excuses but the advice does go in and when I stop and analyse it later I realise I could do things differently or better. I'm always grateful to people for their ideas and suggestions which help to make me a better trainer of my dogs.

One tip was to play short and sharp and put Zeki away before she tired of her toy. The other was to make each tug game much more exciting (god it's tiring) and try not to let her tug just for the sake of tugging but use it purely as reward for some kind of behaviour, however small.

Up until Friday I have done very limited jumping with Zeki as she's only just coming up to 13 months. Mainly I had done straight lines into tunnels through wings. When I put the poles up I still really did just straight line work and had started a little bit of grid training. With Nic we worked on a four jump sequence and I was amazed at how well Zeki coped. I have taught the basics but just not really strung much together. It never ceases to amaze me how dogs learn from the basics and how easy it is to string together more complex sequences.

Nic had me sending Zeki out to #2 without going too near #1. Then I had to move across the face of #3 collecting Zeki on my right hand and then turning and pushing her over #4 off my left hand. She did it brilliantly and I was able to move across #3 whilst she was taking herself to #2.

We did some weaving which was the first time in a new place without food. Zeki also had her first introduction to the collapsible tunnel which she was fine with. A very useful session.

I was looking forward to my training day but a bit worried about Zeki barking too much and chasing other dogs. I decided on Friday evening that I was not going to use food. PERIOD. Hence my feeling worried!

The decision not to use food meant I would stay away from contacts but to be honest that doesn't really bother me because at this stage what I'm really wanting is for Zeki to concentrate in new places with different dogs and different equipment etc. I also decided to take along my little soft crate and that Zeki would sit beside me in her crate in between her turns. This proved a really good idea and I think I will do the same for any future training day, even possibly for the Naughty Niamh.

It helped in so many ways: she was keen to come out for her turn; I wasn't tempted to use her toy to keep her quiet so she remained keen for her toy as reward; I could relax and watch others work the sequences and I could listen to the trainer uninterrupted. If Zeki barked when another dog worked I simply draped my sweatshirt in front of her crate and when she was quiet she was allowed to watch. It made for a very stress free session. She was very happy with the routine and took herself into her crate each time I finished her game.

As well as the little sequences we got on film we also split into groups and worked on single jump exercises. I was worried about this as Zeki had to work with me whilst other dogs were doing their stuff. I know I can do this with food but I had only her ball. I am pleased to report she didn't leave me once. She had a good look at one dog but chose to stay with me and do her own jump. I think this was the aspect of the whole day I was most happy with!

At the end we did quite a complex jump sequence including the weaves. I could not believe that Zeki did it perfectly straight off and then again on our second go. Typically Andy wasn't there to film as he'd gone off to collect some kitchen stools we'd bought off eBay that happened to be located near Sue's place. So at the end of the session I ran the sequence again to get it on film. The version you see was our fifth attempt! As soon as the video came out I got over excited and kept making handling errors! Eventually we got a good take! So, in all Zeki did that little sequence seven times and not once did she miss the weave entry which wasn't easy. So our first training session together was a very enjoyable and productive affair. Thank you Nic for your help and advice.

Here is my little Zeki Beeks in action:

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Zeki Training

I am really enjoying training Zeki and feel we are making progress on several fronts.

My main focus has been working on channelling her focus onto me and whatever we're doing rather than on whatever else is going on. The downside of this is that I do feel I've subdued her natural exuberance and drive but hopefully that will come back the more she gets to enjoy what we're doing together.

Alongside this we have progressed the weaves in a very short time. Less than three weeks ago Zeki was still on lead and running through splayed v-weaves. Now she is off lead and onto upright poles. I am quite amazed at how quickly she progressed. We worked on our entries whilst still on lead and that seems to have paid off. Now I am using my cone to work on entries with a bit of speed involved. I have removed the target pot from the end of the poles and am throwing her reward in which seems to be working. That said I am glad I got Andy to video me today because it illustrates that I'm not quite getting the timing of the reward right. Although she looks ahead for the reward (which is good) she isn't driving out of the poles as quickly as I'd like so I think need to throw the reward in earlier. Ideally I want to move to her toy as reward but am continuing with food for the time being whilst she really learns the job.

Today we worked on entries and independence but in other sessions I make sure to include varying my position whilst she weaves and putting in front and rear crosses on entry/exit. I am lucky that she really seems to love weaving.

On Sunday I took Zeki across to Bernadette to continue her work with distraction training. Overall she was very good and we managed to do things whilst Bernadette ran Zen. This is good because Zen is very exciting and Zeki would love to chase her. I actually managed to progress from just doing simple stays to working on some sequences whilst Zen was running. I think I mentioned in my Mid Downs post that Zeki actually tugged on her toy when Kizzy and Andy ran, well interestingly she did the same today and switched onto her toy when Zen was running. I think this is good news. We also had a play on the weaves and she was pretty good making only a couple of errors. This I am very happy with because now she has performed weaves in two new places without many mistakes at all.

We also made a start on our down dog walk training. I finally have decided that I am going to do a stop dog walk. I would love to be clever enough to train the running dog walk but just don't think I have the knowledge or patience to see it through. Zeki is very confident running across the dog walk and for the first time did a full height version at Bernadette's just running (well actually jumping) to her pot. I had some good advice from Bernadette and a good session to get me started on my new dog walk training. Zeki understands her target better than I had thought and so now we have to practise back chaining on-lead to her target making sure I vary my position and work on the release as well as the finished position. I am not very co-ordinated with this but hopefully I will improve! I cannot believe how much I forget between training each dog that I've had. That said I've been doing this for 21 years now and Zeki is the sixth dog I've trained of my own so I suppose that isn't many spread over that number of years. Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

I am very excited as Zeki has a 1-1 lesson booked with Nic Garrett tomorrow and then she is on her very first training day on Saturday, again with Nic. I am really looking forward to both sessions.

Meantime here is a little video of today's weave training. Apologies for my silly voice whilst we train ..... might be best to turn down your volume LOL!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Mid Downs

On Friday we went to Ardingly to set up my agility course ready for Saturday's Mid Downs agility show. I judged one part of the Burgess qualifier and the judge of the other part had agreed to use the same course so we also set up her ring. I ran Niamh round both parts and was happy that it ran well and that both parts were as similar as we could possibly make them. I was also lucky that Mark agreed to run his young dog round the course (he was not competing with either of his dogs) so that I could be sure of my ability to judge it properly. I find that very helpful and it boosts my confidence hugely.

It's much less stressful to get your course set up the day before rather than trying to do it on the morning. I know it isn't always practical or possible but this time it worked out as Ardingly isn't far from where we live and I knew that the club members would be there setting up the show.

I also took Zeki out and had a little play with her. It's really nice to have the opportunity to get your young dog into a different environment to see if you can transfer learned behaviours to new places. Zeki was good and did a little bit of weaving and some tiny jump sequences. Again Mark kindly ran his young dog round a couple of sequences whilst I got Zeki working with me and she was much better in terms of paying attention to what I was asking her to do as opposed to chasing another dog. I think we are making progress on this front but I know there is still much work to do! At the moment I rely heavily on food as a reward when in new/different places. At home she will do just about anything for her toy so I know she finds a toy rewarding and it gives me hope that I can gradually increase the value of a toy as reward as we progress together.

The day seemed to go well. I had a few nice comments about the course (always good to hear) and a few negative ones in that some people found it hard to remember the pattern. I can relate to this but it's very difficult to be creative in such a small space. You really have to re-use jumps and I guess that always leads to possible confusion. I had one bit of feedback that really made me sad. Somebody asked a person who trains with us how many times they had practised that course. I have no idea who that individual is but I was affronted that my integrity be questioned in such a way. It really does make me think that judging is becoming more odious with each passing year. I judge only because I feel I really should give back to the hobby I so enjoy but I'm really beginning to question just how much longer I can be bothered to give up running my own dog only for comments like that to be made. Hey ho!

I saw some brilliant rounds of agility and the class was won by Leslie Osborne with wife Sarah taking second place. Sarah, you should have run faster .......go the girls! I also judged the medium 3/4 agility and this was won by a brilliant little rescue dog. I can't recall the name of the handler but it was a cracking round (as Ness would say!)

I finished judging at lunch time and was taken across to the pavilion for lunch with my scribe Sara (thank you Sara, it's nice to have someone you know scribing for you). We had a very nice lunch along with Helen and a friend. Very civilised and pleasant. Then we went back to the show and I spent the afternoon socialising and making sure each of my girls had some time with me. Zeki was pretty good as long as I kept her busy doing tricks or stays. If I tried to chat to anyone she immediately became fixated on the ring and was lunging and barking. So, I had to work hard with her to keep her occupied and reward only good behaviours. We watched Andy and Kizzy run and the best thing for me (apart from Kizzy's run itself!) was that when Zeki saw Andy and Kizzy run she actually got so excited she wanted to tug! Hurrah, it is in there I just gotta keep working on it!

Back to Kizzy. To be honest I didn't expect a lot as they haven't trained much due to Andy's injury. The course was interesting and I would say quite tricky. It was G5-7 but perhaps more leaning towards 6-7 in terms of difficulty. Anyway, little Kizzle went out there and did her stuff. She won the class despite her pilot instructing her to turn right (which she duly did) after a jump instead of left. I was quite impressed that Andy had the wherewithal to stop Kizzy back-jumping as he corrected his mistake. It cost quite a bit of time but they still won the class as the rest of the round was so smooth. So, that means Kizzy is into G6. This was Andy's goal but I don't think he expected to achieve it quite so quickly. At this point I should also say well done to Neil and Bex who also won into G6 at Chippenham! That little dog is going brilliantly. I saw them run at Crufts and was very impressed. I also heard that Manda and Kodak had a win at Chippenham, that is great news! All in all a good day for the Obays with Timmy and Peggy coming 2nd to Andy and Kizzy and then Bernadette and Zen winning the medium class. Sadly Todd and Karen had a tiny glitch but I was well impressed with Todd's contacts they looked just about perfect to me. Andy watch and learn!
The downside of this is that I now have to change all Kizzy's entries (Andy never does entries) and it's a pain. It must be a nightmare for show processors and now it will be even harder with the new rule.

I was glad I saw Hex and Leah run in their G3 jumping. They won the class and looked very impressive. Well done also to Lesley and Toot winning the other part of the same class.

All in all a really good day, just wish I had been running the Naughty Niamh! I can't wait to run her at a show.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Some nice walks

A few pictures from some nice walks I've had recently. Some are of all the dogs and others just my three. Andy is trying to walk his own dogs at least two or three times a week as part of his campaign to get over his injury. These were clean walks but then the rain came back and it got a bit muddy again. Today isn't too bad so I'm just off for a walk now. Hopefully they'll be reasonably clean when we get back.

Down stay on a slope!

I love this picture of Poppy, she look so cute

I love these three photos of Niamh (below)

The above photo makes me laugh. Kizzy had a ball and Murf and Pops are stalking her!

Now Zeki has the ball and Murphy and Kizzy chase her down!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Crufts 2009

I really enjoyed Crufts this year but sadly can't say the same for Andy. We left home on the Thursday really early and I noticed that Andy looked a bit pale. I asked him if he was OK and he said he felt really sick. We had to stop twice enroute as he was really unwell. When we arrived at the NEC car park I was really cheeky and drove between some bollards, totalling ignoring the little man in a yellow coat, and managed to get parking third row from front. This meant we were parked right by the toilet block which was extremely useful as Andy was still feeling really ill.

He felt a little better as we walked across to the hall but still looked ghastly. It was a real shame as it spoilt the occasion for him. The frustrating thing is that he won't get the chance to run at Crufts for two years now because he's judging the champ class there next year.

We managed to get a nice big bench and set up our crate for the two girls. Here they are smiling for the camera:

I'm top dog, stay down where you belong!

Oh no you're not, I'm top dog!

Andy smiling but still looking rather pasty and Kizzy

Johanna was supposed to be coming over for Crufts but due to poor Spooky getting injured she was unable to make it. Johanna was very sweet and bought good luck presents for Kizzy and Niamh. She decided that Kizzy just didn't have enough pink and rectified that situation. Here are the girls' presents now lining their beds. So, Kizzy has a pink bed at last!

Kizzy's beautiful pink bed!

The mini/mixi course was good because you actually got to run over 16 obstacles each. Often this class is a bit of a let down when you get 10 obstacles each (why is it that the class fee isn't reduced accordingly I wonder .....)

The large/medium dog course was flowing but had a couple of traps on offer. It also had a relatively flat weave entry which I love. Having seen a couple of dogs get eliminated running straight into the tunnel I decided to be cautious and ran Niamh quite slowly. She wasn't overly impressed and I could feel her trying to push on but I kept holding her back. I think she was quite frustrated with me by the end of the round but we were clear.

Andy and Kizzy set off into a straight pipe tunnel and on into a straight set of weaves .... or not. Kizzy ran straight past them and so we got 5 faults. The rest of the course she worked really well and was completely at ease in the arena. It was a real shame. It was the first time Andy and Kizzy had run together in quite a while as Andy is still trying to get over his groin strain. It's taking a very long time and he's had loads of phsyio treatments, still ongoing. We do loads of training on really tough weave entries and Kizzy is pretty damn good but it highlighted something we don't train often enough and that's dead straight weave entries especially following a fast straight tunnel. It's quite a tough weave entry as the dog gets very little view of the poles. Guess what we trained on Tuesday night!

The most disappointing thing for me was that you couldn't have a toy anywhere in the arena (fair enough, not complaining) and the ring steward kept hold of my lead so poor Niamh had nothing to play with at the end of her round. Niamh loves her game at the end of every round and I truly believe this has helped to motivate her and make her faster and keener. I found it very frustrating to be unable to play with my dog at the end of a round so I used the baton and I think she left a few teeth marks. I was glad I did this because otherwise I think she might have got cross with the camera man who was wooshing right into the dogs' faces as they finished. Probably made good t.v. but not very wise in my view. In fact on the Saturday I saw a rather well known agility dog getting very agitated with the camera and running back to tell it off more than once. After this incident they put the camera man the other side of the barrier. I am very surprised that the organisers allowed this. You kind of accept it's going to happen somewhere like Olympia but at a proper dog show you really expect people to understand how this could upset some dogs, especially when they exit the course quite pumped up and looking for something to grab hold of.

We didn't stay around too long after our event as Andy was still feeling really ill so instead we made our way home. I was quite glad of this as I knew I was getting up early again the following morning this time to be groom for Leah and now Bernadette as Johanna couldn't come to Crufts.

So, Friday morning dawned (well actually it didn't, it was still pitch dark) and Bernadette arrived followed shortly by Leah. We piled into Leah's van and off we went again. I really enjoyed the day even though I didn't get to see very much agility. It's quite hectic grooming for people and in addition to Herbie and Zen I helped Lee with Bold and Shy as they were both in the singles event (personally I think that's just plain greedy.) So, grooming for four dogs meant I really only got to watch a few rounds. I couldn't see the t.v. screen either because I had to be in the tunnel ready to pass dogs to their respective handlers and then take others back. I didn't mind in the least as I know how stressful it is when you're competing. All my charges were well behaved, some noisier than others - you can figure that one out for yourselves but before you jump to the wrong conclusion don't assume the noisy one was just Zen - was it HERBIE?? I think Herbie had a wonderful time as he found lots of people to fuss him. Zen was very chilled and seemed to love being back in the agility atmosphere. Bold just kept looking for his Daddy (just like Dan's Tig) and Shy sat in between my legs like a little angel.

Zen chilling and being perfect (Zeki is so like her, it's uncanny)

Herbie not chilling, looking out for potential victims to mug as they pass by

Sadly Leah and Herbie had a little glitch at the end of their round otherwise I feel certain they would have been in the final. I think they came 10th and you had to be top eight. Zen was brilliant and came 2nd in the medium singles overall. What a return from maternity leave!

Shopping - well I managed to get through half of my list on Friday but had loads more still to get the next day. Yes, I was mad. I really did travel up and down to Crufts for three days in a row. This is why I haven't put my post up until now because I've been too tired! We had an excellent journey home which passed by quickly with Bernadette singing to us. I can't say I'd recommend it but it kept Leah awake which was useful as she was driving!

Saturday arrived and to be honest I felt like smashing my alarm clock into pieces. However, I got straight in the shower and was half awake by the time Leah arrived just after 5.00 am. We had both decided to go back up to Crufts in order to support Jan and Teazle who were running the KC Novice cup.

We had a good journey up and after meeting up with Jan off we went on our first shopping trip. I must admit I was a bit crazy and bought loads of stuff. Mostly it was pink. Pink bedding, pink collars, pink leads, pink toys and so it went on. I also bought new scissors and thinning scissors, a new soft crate for Zeki (this is to go in the car to try to stop her barking when we go off for our walks), a big sheet of pink vet bed for Michael to make more toys. It was amazing how much I could buy and how much Leah could carry!

On to the agility. I wasn't too sure about the international competition as I thought it might be a bit of a bore but it was brilliant with a very worthy winner in David and the wonderful Dobby. Jan and Teazle did well for their first time at Crufts and I know they'll be back.

Then more shopping and more shopping. By the time I'd finished shopping it was gone 6pm so we decided to grab something to eat before heading back to the car. The good thing was that the car park was almost empty so no queue. We decided to get back to the car in one go and you've never seen anything like it. We both had a chair each plus all my shopping. I think Leah had one carrier bag with a very expensive orange collar inside (for Stihl). We looked like a couple of pack horses. But I am very happy as my van is now almost completely pink inside. Andy refuses to drive it now - RESULT!

I am sad I didn't get to see the champ class on the Sunday but I did watch it all on Crufts t.v. What a brilliant competition it turned out to be. Toni must be made up with her two girls, what an achievement to win two Crufts championships on the same evening. Zen came away with medium reserve; a fantastic result after so much time out of agility for one reason or another and the icing on the cake for Team OBay was Nic and Indy winning the small dog ticket for the second year running.

So, that was my Crufts experience this year. Brilliant.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Congratulations for Crufts achievements

A full post of our Crufts experience to follow (when I've recovered!) but in the meantime megga congratulations to:

Nic & Indy small dog Crufts Champions 2009
Bernadette & Zen medium dog Reserve ticket 2009

What a fantastic result for the shelties!

Happy first birthday Zeki

Happy birthday to my gorgeous Zeki. I cannot believe she is a year old today. Exactly one year ago it seemed that there would be no sheltie puppy for me at that particular time. But things worked out so that I ended up getting my longed for sheltie and she is a very special little person.

From conversations I've had with people during the past year it seems that quite a few think I wanted a sheltie purely due to falling in love with Andy's little Kizzy. It is true that I adore Kizzy but those who know me well also know that I have wanted a sheltie for a very very long time. Border collies are my passion and always will be but I have always loved shelties too. I spent most of my childhood longing for a dog and it was always a border collie I wanted as I had spent so much time on the farm in Wales with them. I got bitten, bullied and chased by border collies but nothing could put me off and I would never be without one.

But I also loved the rough collies on the farm and when I later came across a sheltie I assumed it was a scaled down collie and fell in love with the breed. Ginnie was my introduction to shelties. She was a sweet little sable sheltie owned by the lady who ran the local dog training club which I joined when I got my very first dog, Lizzie. Ginnie was a very good obedience dog and I just loved her attitude and appearance; I decided then that, one day, I would have one of these lovely dogs. Over twenty years later along came Zeki and boy was she was worth waiting for!

She is such a character. Rather loud at times yes, but oh so loving and loyal and possibly the cuddliest dog I've ever owned. She is very much my dog. She adores Andy but it's very plain that I am her person and that makes me very happy!

I bought Zeki a beautiful Holly & Lil collar for her birthday whilst I was up at Crufts but we have to wait about a month for delivery as they are making it to order for me.

Happy Birthday to Zeki's brothers and sister:
Zev, Zega & Zinna!

Zeki on her birthday walk!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Good luck at Crufts

Well we're off to Crufts tomorrow for the mini/mixi pairs with Niamh and Kizzy. I'm looking forward to seeing Kizzle at her first Crufts.

I have been extremely bad and forgotten to buy any good luck cards for my friends competing at Crufts. No excuses, just forgot. So I'd like to wish everyone the best of luck especially:

Leah, Jan, Bernadette, Lorna, Rosie, Helen, Louise, Tracey, Wendy, Mand (& Team.) This is a very rushed post so I apologise to anyone I've missed out.

Most of all enjoy the experience but please don't forget to WIN!

I'd like to say thank you to Lian for our beautiful card - it's really lovely you are so thoughtful.

Sorry for Johanna who was unable to make the visit. Hope Spooky is OK and look forward to seeing you when you finally make the trip.